20th Apr 2016

An experienced Hong Kong U20 team lost to European champions Spain 44-8 today in the opening round of the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Using their driving maul to good effect, Spain were on the front foot for the majority of the contest and outscored Hong Kong six tries to one.Early tries from wingers Jordi Jorba Jorge and Samual Parry saw Spain race into a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Determined defence, led by tough-tackling fullback Liam Owens, kept the Spanish at bay for the remainder of the half until captain and tight-head Jon Zabala barged his way over from close range.

It took just three minutes of the second half for Spain to add to their tally with Parry dotting down for his second.

With a string of replacements being made by both sides play fractured and there was no further scoring until centre Andrea Rabagao strode through a large gap in midfield to make it 34-0 with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Rabagao added a penalty after Hong Kong was caught illegally playing the ball at the breakdown to increase the advantage by two before Hong Kong got on the board through a try from Matthew Worley. There was still time for Spain to add a sixth try, replacement Jose Lerin supplying the finish.

“We started well and put Spain under early pressure but a couple of defensive errors led to some early tries,” said Hong Kong U20s coach Peter Drewett.

Coach Peter Drewett had opted for an experienced selection in the first round with ten of the starting 22 veterans of last year’s World Rugby U20 Trophy campaign in Portugal, including eight of the starting XV.

Co-captains Pierce Mackinlay-West and John Markley anchored the forward pack from flanker and hooker respectively with Markley, a player in the senior Elite Rugby Programme (ERP) joined by Junior ERP player Callum McFeat-Smith and Lachlan Oliver-Kirby in the front row. Liam Herbert and Cris Calanza were the starting lock pairing with Alessandro Nardoni at No. 8.

The backline was substantially the same as that which anchored Hong Kong’s Asian qualification campaign in December with James Christie and Hugo Stiles reprising their halfback pairing while Ron Siew and Matt Worley were the centres combination. Hugo Chui and Liam Owens, both veterans of Portugal, were at right wing and fullback respectively while Hong Kong Scottish’s Austin Robertshaw lined up on the left wing. Anticipating a physical clash against Spain, European U19 champions, Drewett opted for a forwards heavy split in the reserves with just two backs on the bench alongside five forwards.

“We worked hard to compete with the large Spanish forwards but found it difficult to secure quality set piece possession,” Drewett said after the match.

Spain won the eight-team European U19 championships last November to qualify for their first World Rugby U20 Trophy, beating Romania 24-3 in the final after besting Germany and Russia in the quarter and semi-finals to reach the Cup.

“The great thing about tournaments like this is that we have a chance to go out and improve upon our performance in three days time against the USA,” concluded Drewett.

Hong Kong will play USA on Saturday, 23 April, at 22.00pm (HKG time).

Hong Kong Men’s U20 v Spain:

1. Lachlan OLIVER-KERBY (DB Pirates) 2. John MARKLEY* (co-captain, Valley) 3. Callum McFEAT-SMITH* (HKFC); 4. Liam HERBERT (HKFC) 5. Cris CALANZA (HKFC) 6. Jonathan HEALY (HK Scottish) 7. Pierce MACKINLAY-WEST (Co-captain, HKFC) 8. Alessandro NARDONI* (HK Scottish) 9. James CHRISTIE* (Northumbria Univ.) 10. Hugo STILES* (Bath Univ.) 11. Austin ROBERTSHAW (HK Scottish) 12. Ron SIEW* (USRC Tigers) 13. Matthew WORLEY (Racing 92) 14. Hugo CHUI* (HKFC) 15. Liam OWENS* (Edinburgh Univ.) 16. Ken ENCARNACION* (HK Scottish/Gai Wu) 17. WONG Ming Kei (USRC Tigers) 18. Oisin HARBITZ (Valley) 19. James KARTON (USRC Tigers) 20. Ben TANG Cheuk Hang* (Kowloon) 21. Mark COEBERGH (HK Scottish) 22. Jack COMBES (Hartpury College).

* Member of the 2015 World Rugby U20 Trophy team in Portugal